We’ve had one form or another of Black & Decker’s Workmate series work tables for, well, as long as we can remember; this is another case of us having a tool for so long that we just forgot to mention it to you. So here’s our belated recommendation: If you’re doing any kind of project work in a small shop, you’re going to want one of these.
At its core, the Workmate is a small workbench that folds away for easy storage. (Just click two releases and the benchtop collapses to the base. Fold the legs in, and you’re left with a package not much larger than the benchtop and about 8″ thick.) However, the top is actually in three pieces, and with the cranks on the front you can move the front piece back and forth to clamp work in place — adding a vice functionality to the unit. You can clamp small items (like a 2×4) with the center piece in place, or you can remove it to clamp larger items, including tools.
A quick trip to the local retailer revealed a number of cool features Black & Decker’s added since we came across our old model: Newer Workmates include a linkage between the two clamp cranks so they turn together and can be operated with one hand, and they also offer two height settings.
Workmates come in a variety of “flavors,” from the simplest WM125 model with just an X-frame and a two-part benchtop all the way up to the WM425 (pictured here) which can handle up to 550 lbs and includes a 6-outlet power strip. Black & Decker also offers specialized models that incorporate a hand truck — one less tool to carry — or are purpose designed for tasks like painting.
We’ll admit that we’ve used ours for all sorts of things, like clamping wood together during gluing and even acting as an impromptu welding table. We’re guessing that “welding table” isn’t recommended in the manual, but hey, we lost our manual years ago.
Street pricing starts around $35 for the simplest version, and we found the big-boy WM425 readily available for around $100. At these prices, we might just have to upgrade.